Wednesday, June 20, 2018

His Word Today: Holy Moments

Good morning everyone,

Today, the scriptures recount the moment when Elijah completed his earthly journey and continued into heaven (cf 2 Kings 2: 1, 6-14).  Anyone who has had the privilege of being present at the bedside of a loved one in his or her final moments of earthly life knows that those final moments are indeed a blessing.

It often happens that hearts are opened to one another in a way that they have never been opened throughout entire lifetimes.  Joys and sorrows shared are remembered with grateful hearts, reluctances and hesitations are often explained in the sacred space created when life's limits become evident ... most of the time, but not always.

All moments of life are meant to be sacred, shared with loving companions who know us deeply, love us tenderly and help us to walk in humility with God and with others.  May the prophets of scripture - Elijah and Elisha - instruct our hearts so that we can grow in our awareness of this grace.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

His Word Today: A change of heart

Good morning everyone,

The scriptures are filled with the adventures and mis-adventures of God's people.  This week, we have read the story of Ahab whose wife Jezebel even went so far as to falsely condemn someone to death so that her husband could gain physical possessions.  Today, the scriptures continue, and we see that when Ahab realizes the error of his way, he repents: He tore his garments (as a sign of his shame) and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh as a mark of repentance for his sin (1 Kings 21:27).

Even in our day, many people may be tempted to think that they don't have to answer for their actions and words, but the truth is that we are all part of one family: God's family.  If only we could realize how precious this reality truly is, perhaps we would look at life differently.  Living in relationship with Jesus, and with our brothers and sisters, we come to realize that each person who we meet has something to offer us - a smile, a pleasant word, some kind of encouragement or help - and that we too have it within our power to make other people's journeys through life a little bit better.

Even if we have not always realized this truth, it is not too late to ask our loving God to reveal it to us, beginning today.  Ask for that grace and prepared to be pleasantly surprised.  Prepare also to have your heart filled with an overwhelming desire to be generous with your talents and gifts: this is the natural response to the awareness of goodness in our midst.

Have a great day.

Monday, June 18, 2018

His Word Today: Rooted

Good morning everyone,

We live in a society that preaches a very interesting message: all will be well if you can be rich, if you can look good ... but there is an important factor that is missing in this message ... that we need to always understand ourselves in light of our ancestors: what they have done for us, how much they have sacrificed, the true value of the treasure they have bequeathed to us.

In ancient Israel, this sense of rootedness was made evident in the land that was passed down from one generation to another.  The same plot of land often remained in the same family, being farmed by some and providing pasture for livestock belonging to others.  In this context, we see the drama unfold between Naboth and Ahab in today's first reading (1 Kings 21:1-16).  Ahab is rich and thinks that his money should be able to buy him more land, so he approaches Naboth and begs him: Give me your vineyard for my vegetable garden (1 Kings 21:2).  By asking such a question, Ahab demonstrates plainly that he has no regard for the sacredness of the land that had belonged to Naboth and his family.  By comparison, Naboth is very well connected to the land that is his birthright.  He denies Ahab's request quite plainly: The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage (1 Kings 21:4).  In fact, Naboth lost his life for his land.

Jesus took Naboth's commitment to yet another level when he encouraged his disciples to offer no resistance to one who is evil (Mt 5:39) ... in fact, Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles (Mt 5:41).  Only someone who is well connected to his or her roots, someone who knows where he or she has come from, can be free enough to give so freely.

Have a great day.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sowing seeds

We received word this week of the sudden death of Monsignor David Cresswell, a priest of our diocese.  Monsignor Cresswell has served various parishes throughout our diocese since his Ordination in 1963, including Our Lady of Fatima in Elliot Lake and Saint James the Greater in Blind River.  For the last sixteen (16) years, he has been living in Coniston and exercising his priestly ministry among the parishioners at Saint Paul the Apostle parish.

The work of a priest is to live among the people of God, doing as Jesus did: scattering seeds on the land (Mk 4:26).  In various parishes throughout the diocese and during the time he spent in Gualan, Guatemala (from June 1965 until March 1971), Monsignor Cresswell scattered the seeds of faith.  Like the farmer in the gospel, he never knew whether those seeds would take root, but he continued to share the gift of his own faith with those he met, always encouraging them to discover the love of God in their own lives.

This is how it is for all of us.  Our task is to sow seeds.  We sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed sprouts and grows, we know not how (Mk 4:27).  It is God who inspires within our hearts the desire to know him and it is He who continues, night and day, the process of helping the seeds that we have planted to grow.  Like good gardeners, we are called to care for the seeds of faith that are sown in the hearts of those we encounter: to water them regularly with our prayer and to help them to grow through the example of our faith.

Saint Paul tells us that we must always be courageous in this task (cf 2 Cor 5:6).  It takes courage to speak about God to those around us, and it takes even more courage to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), yet this is what we strive to do every day.  We must never allow the lights of this world to blind us to the truths that we have discovered, otherwise, we will run the risk of losing our way.  Instead, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, knowing that heaven is our ultimate goal, our true homeland.

At some level, we all know this to be true, but we still face the temptation to doubt when we look around us and see that there are less and less people choosing to associate themselves with organized religion.  When we are tempted to doubt, it might help to take a step back and to remember that this is God’s church, that he is always at work, planting and transplanting the tender shoots (cf Ez 17:22) of faith he has planted within our hearts so that others can also come to know and love Him.

The funeral Mass for Monsignor David Cressell will be celebrated at Saint Paul the Apostle parish in Coniston on Wednesday morning, June 20 beginning at 10:00am.  May the Lord who called him to serve as a priest in this Diocese now welcome him home and grant him the gift of eternal life in His presence, and may the members of his family and those who are saddened by his sudden departure be comforted in the knowledge that the day he has longed for has finally come to pass.

Friday, June 15, 2018

His Word Today: Seek guidance

Good morning everyone,

It seems that at all moments of life, we need to seek guidance from time to time.  When we are children, we look to parents and other adults who are significant to us.   As we grow, we look to peers, colleagues ... all along, people of faith learn that it is possible to look to our faith to gain the wisdom that we need.

Evidence of this truth is found in a passage taken from the first Book of Kings (1 Kings 19:11-16).  Elijah came to the mountain of God ... to a cave where he took shelter (1 Kings 19:9).  There, he encountered the Lord and said: I have been most zealous for the Lord ... but the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant ... I alone am left, and they seek to take my life (1 Kings 19:14).  If Elijah had expected the Lord to change his mind and send him off to another destination, he may have been disappointed because the answer to his prayer was: Go back, take the road back to the desert near Damascus ...  (1 Kings 19:15).

Like Elijah, we too must always remember to go in search of the Lord when we are in need of guidance.  Even if he does not answer our prayer right away, we can remain persistent in our expectations, for he will never turn his back on us.  Instead, he will always listen to our prayers and will offer guidance.  Then it is up to us to follow his advice.

Have a great day.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

His Word Today: Trust

Good morning everyone,

Today's scripture reading, taken from the first Book of Kings (18:41-46) reminds us of the importance of trust in any relationship, but most especially in our relationship with God.  Elijah had already provided proof of the presence and power of God when he had called down fire upon his offering in the sight of all those who had refused to change their ways and worship God (1 Kings 18:22-39), but he had to go further in order to convince the skeptical crowd.

There had been a severe drought in all the land, yet Elijah urged King Ahab, saying: there is the sound of heavy rain (1 Kings 18:41).  There was not a cloud in the sky, but Elijah did not let this stop him from believing.  Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, crouched down and put his head between his knees (1 Kings 18:42), praying, hoping and trusting that what the Lord had said through him would come to pass … and it did!

Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Our God is the God to whom Elijah prayed, in whom he trusted.  Our God has never turned His back on His people.  Our God has always loved us and has always been willing to provide for us.  Do we call out to Him when there are droughts in our lives: when we find it hard to believe, to trust, to love?  Do we sit and wait for Him to answer, all the while trusting that He is there?  He will never turn his back on us because he loves us and wants only the best for us.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

His Word Today: Saint Anthony of Padua

Today, the Church celebrates one of the most beloved of the Saints.  He is beloved because he always managed to find a way to stay close to the people he served.  His heart was always open and he was constantly looking for ways to help simple ordinary people understand a very simple truth: God loves us!

Fernando Martins started out in life just like all the rest of us.  He had a mother and a father who loved him, and because they were relatively wealthy, he could have had anything he desired.  Yet, at the age of fifteen years, he asked to be sent to the Abbey of Santa Cruz in Coimbra (which was the capital of Portugal at the time).  There he studied theology and Latin with the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra, an Order of priests who followed the Rule of Saint Augustine.

Fernando was eventually Ordained a priest as one of the Canons Regular and served as guest master for some time until he was introduced to Franciscan friars who settled in a small hermitage outside Coimbra.  His ongoing conversations with the Franciscans allowed him to draw close to them and eventually he felt a calling to leave the Canons Regular and to become a Franciscan, taking the religious name of Anthony, after Saint Anthony of Egypt, a third-century religious hermit.

Saint Anthony’s constant curiosity inspires us to be like Elijah.  In the first reading for today’s Mass, the Lord tells him: Go out and stand on the mountain (1 Kings 19:11).  Standing there, Elijah made himself vulnerable, but he had to do that in order to experience the gift that God had prepared for him.  We too are standing and making ourselves vulnerable.  We have come to celebrate the Eucharist.  In this place, we hope to meet the Lord and to discover the gifts that he has prepared for us today.  It was his ability to make himself vulnerable that allowed Saint Anthony to constantly go out and to follow the path that the Lord was pointing out.

Inspired by the zeal of his Franciscan brothers, he travelled with them to Morocco where he began to spread God’s word.  However, he became extremely ill and was sent back to Portugal.  As Providence would have it, his ship was blown off course and he ended up in Sicily instead of in Portugal, and from there, he travelled to Tuscany.  He continued to pray and to study as he recovered there from his illness.

Anthony earned a reputation as a beloved preacher because he was very learned, but he also had a gift for explaining the mysteries of God with language that could be understood by everyone.  If he were here with us today, I wonder what he would say about the gospel passage that we have heard (Mt 5:27-32)?

The sin of adultery is one that few people will admit to, but we live in a society that has become extremely promiscuous, so I am sure that if he were here, Saint Anthony would not shy away from the subject.  Perhaps he would use this occasion to say to us that sometimes people need to be shocked into realizing the great treasure that has been entrusted to us: the treasure of our faith.  Many people, perhaps even some who you and I know personally, seem to find all kinds of excuses to deny the fact that they need God in their lives, or they prefer to speak with Him one on one rather than participating in the life of a local parish.

The problem with this individualistic way of thinking is that we become increasingly concerned with our own interests and content ourselves with that which is pleasing to us.  In the meanwhile, we run the risk of cutting ourselves off from other people and we become deaf to their cries for help.  It is at such times that we need to be shocked into realizing that we need one another in order to make it through this life.

Jesus used some very graphic images to make his point.  He spoke about tearing out an eye (Mt 5:29), and cutting off a hand (Mt 5:30) if they should cause us to sin.  Perhaps we don’t need such drastic measures, but maybe we need to ask Saint Anthony to pray with us today, to help us understand with our minds and our hearts how much our God loves us.

If we can begin to experience God’s love in our lives, if we can begin to experience the tender and loving way that our God listens to us when we speak with him, if we can begin to experience the way that our God is always present to us, inviting us to come close to him and always ready to help us ... maybe we in turn will also be inspired to listen compassionately to others.  Perhaps we will want to tell others how important it is that we spend time together, sitting around a table and enjoying good food, talking with one another about the everyday joys and worries of life.  If we can learn to trust one another with our stories, we can also learn to trust in God.

Let us ask Saint Anthony to pray for us today, so that the Lord will soften our hearts and make it possible for us to learn how to trust in Him, how to trust in others, and most of all to believe with all our hearts that God loves us.